Wall of cassettes in Innsbruck
Back home trying to do my taxes and suddenly I’m reliving 2010 – revisiting a Starbucks in Wisconsin Dells, a Sleep Inn near Baton Rouge and a bad Mexican place in Chicago courtesy of an envelope full of receipts – when I’d hoped to be recounting the tour highlights of the past few weeks.
Is it enough to say it was a good trip? I’d always heard that Germany, Austria, and Switzerland were good places to play. Never got there until my late forties and now early fifties but I suppose that’s just the way it was meant to be. The audiences are with you each step of the way, whether it’s a black rock box or the swinging El Lokal bar/restaurant/club in Zurich or Dachau Cultural Center with the mayor of that infamous town in attendance.
Beautiful Cafe Jelinek in Vienna
Maybe it’s this widening streak of grey in my hair, or living so far from cultural activity, nightlife and civilization that when I do stick my head up from the verdant trou that is rural France I’ve aged another year while they keep sending in younger versions of everything else: ultra-modern rest services on the autobahn and soundmen who’ve gone to school to learn to do sound but lack the requisite people skills and promoters with abundant hair and chic glasses – the gatekeepers or facilitators or whatever you call em are now decades younger and I start to think we’re creeping to elder territory, like “look at those cute old people, when they’re in motion you wouldn’t believe they’ve been around as long as they have!”
One night in a German hotel there was an arts program on TV with this group called Kitty, Daisy & Lewis – I think we might have played the same festival in the UK in the last year or two so I remembered the name. A guy and two girls with a rockabilly look, sitting around singing and playing. Then it showed them on stage doing a concert and they had an older couple playing upright bass and guitar. I don’t speak German but it sounded like they said it was the kids’ parents, then they showed a picture of The Raincoats and I thought wait, that woman on bass looks familiar – she’s Ingrid, that played drums with the Raincoats! What talented kids she has, and they seem to be doing great, with some help from mom and dad whether they need it or not. Evolution.
Or a couple of times I got all excited in clubs when I heard recordings of my songs played by young women – wait, I didn’t know someone covered Knapsack! Then realizing it’s only a fifteen-years younger version of…myself.
When we checked into a rather downhome hotel in Mannheim, we got a kick out of the crusty proprietor and his chain-smoking wife with her big glasses, dyed red hair and hacking voice – “did you get a load of those old characters? What a hoot!” until the lovely promoters at Blau said watch-cap-wearing ex-sailor and his broad (who sounded like a German version of one of Marge Simpson’s sisters) had phoned to let him know that an elderly musician couple had checked in – us.
We’re the older folks now. It’s been in the works for a while, but it’s finally starting to make some kind of sense. But only if I can get to grips with it as a wonderful opportunity. I kept noticing, on this trip, all the songs where I’m a mother and I think “what will I be next?” What is there, before Crone?
A gig in Berlin gave us the chance to visit our French pals Nico and Sabine, who’ve opened a nice bar and restaurant, L’Origine Du Monde, there. It was great to see them so excited about their new life, after the sleepiness of Chalus. How brave they are – if you’re in Berlin, stop in for a drink or something to eat, or for one of Nico’s French film nights!
Nico & his daughter Nina at L’Origine Du Monde, Berlin
We had to share room in the Ford Escort with Keith Richards, I’ve been reading his autobiography for weeks now and it’s one of the best musician books ever. I don’t know how they did it but he brought a whole life and world alive – you are there, inside photos you’ve stared at and records you thought you knew by heart. He’s made me laugh and cry and want to pick up the guitar – I honestly never expected it. What a guy, and here I’d always thought he was so cool. He’s not! I guess that’s what makes him the coolest of all. I’ll be sad when it ends and Eric will be out of a job because he’s made a near fulltime occupation out of singing the chords to Brown Sugar every time I even reach for “the book”.
Okay, I’ve got to get back to adding up these receipts – here’s one for that Premier Travel Inn. Remember that one? It was just like the other ones, only instead of the painting with the two trees, there was one with three trees.